Residents support drawing up street plan

People attending a master plan creation meeting Thursday evening strongly supported drawing up a major street plan for the parish.

Participants were less fond of a suggestion that the parish adopt a corridor preservation plan for areas where it feels roads should be built in the future.

About 40 people showed up for the meeting held to collect opinions about what the parish’s master plan should contain.

Much of the dialogue involved roads.

The parish has little money to maintain roads, Parish Councilman Jim Norred told the group.

Indeed, the parish is spending only about half of what statistics indicate it needs to spend in order to maintain the 800 miles of roads it has, said Jeff Winston, the contractor helping the parish create the plan.

When asked about increasing the road budget, 8 percent of those responding said they support the idea even if it means paying higher taxes, while 88 percent said they support a higher road budget only if it doesn’t mean a tax increase.

Traffic always grows faster than road improvements, Winston told the group, showing maps with projections indicating that traffic congestion will get worse as the population grows.

“We need to create a better grid” to reduce congestion, he said. “We hardly have any roads running north and south.”

That even causes a problem for people wanting to go east or west, because it makes it difficult to have access to roadways such as Interstate 12 and U.S. 190, he said.

When asked if the parish should create a major street plan, 83 percent of the respondents supported the idea, while 17 percent opposed it.

Opposition rose when Winston asked if the parish should preserve corridors where roads are needed, by identifying those corridors and purchasing the property when development is proposed in those areas.

Of those responding, 40 percent supported that idea while 52 percent opposed it, with the opposition focusing on the feeling that it would mean that government would be taking property rights.

When asked if the parish should accept roads into its system only if those roads meet parish standards, 91 percent said they strongly supported that idea, 9 percent said they moderately supported it and none said they were opposed.

Respondents registered their opinions anonymously with electronic clickers.

After a master plan is produced, it will go through an adoption process that includes public hearings, Winston said.

Eventually, the plan will go before the Parish Council, which can make changes. The state’s Office of Community Development Disaster Recovery Unit provided the parish with a $450,000 grant to create the master plan.